It all started with a strong statement: “Culture teaches us to live together, teaches us that we’re not alone in the world, that other people have different traditions and ways of living that are just as valid as our own.” Maria Grazia Chiuri quoted the famous French-Moroccan author Tahar Ben Jelloun in her show notes, a quote which ultimately set the tone of her latest outing for Dior.
Dior's Cruise 2020 collection presented at Palais El Badi in Marrakech. Photo: Nadine Ijewere for Dior.
Rooted in a multi-cultural and emancipated spirit, Chiuri's Cruise 2020 collection for the French Maison was de facto a reflection on Jelloun's inclusive statement and therefore meant to be understood as a journey across cultures, a journey that started at the very heart of the most important cultural hub of North Africa: Marrakech, this vibrant city that has been – and still is – a driving force for creative minds and intellectuals of all kinds.
Set within the breathtaking ruins of the Palais El Badi, this new Cruise collection also offered an interesting perspective on how a luxury brand could and should approach craftsmanship today. In fact, Chiuri made a strong statement by collaborating with a range of artisans and designers from various backgrounds and origins – think Morocco, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Britain, and Jamaica – who expressed their cultural roots and artisanal strength throughout the collection. This resulted in a range of ready-to-wear pieces and accessories that were not only conceived and thought of as branded, luxury products, but that were the culmination of authentic collaborations based on a common denominator: the love and respect for the Mediterranean legacy at the crossroads between Africa and Europe.
Backstage at Dior's Cruise 2020 show presented at Palais El Badi in Marrakech. Video: Courtesy of Dior.
In this sense, local identity was a very important guiding thread of this Cruise 2020 collection, and Maria Grazia Chiuri and the designers and brands who collaborated with Dior used cultural identities not only as a mere inspiration, but in order to grasp creative possibilities within reach and translate them into desirable and authentic clothes and accessories. Collection-wise, this cultural melting pot was expressed through floor-skimming, loose fit, Oriental-infused silhouettes in warm and earthy hues that came with details that were a little pagan and mystical – think Tarot card prints and patterns, as well as motifs that revealed a savannah bestiary.
Collaboration-wise, Uniwax, the famous Abidjan-based wax fabric producer, was tapped by Maria Grazia Chiuri in order to co-create wax-inspired fabrics that celebrate African cultures and heritage. In addition, Pathé Ouédraogo was commissioned to design an exclusive t-shirt that paid a tribute to Nelson Mandela's legacy, while Grace Wales Bonner and Mickalene Thomas were asked to reinterpret the iconic Bar jacket and skirt. Dior's milliner Stephen Jones, for his part, was responsible for the show's desirable headpieces. For the scenography, Sumano, an association that supports and empowers traditional women’s crafts of Moroccan tribes, collaborated with Dior and showcased artisanal paintings on pottery, as well as their art of weaving and their expertise in natural vegetal dyeing.
Dior's Cruise 2020 collection presented at Palais El Badi in Marrakech. Photos: Regis Colin Berthelier for Nowfashion.
Ultimately, Maria Grazia Chiuri's message was clear: her intention was not to make yet another bohemian-flavored Cruise collection – as this would be a sad cliché, obviously – but to elaborate a collection that forces us to keep our eyes (and mind) wide open and witness how Mediterranean art, culture, faith, and origins can be expressed and highlighted through luxury – and most importantly, how this translates into consumable fashion internationally. And that was probably the most beautiful lesson to learn from this show: the luxury industry can and should build bridges between cultures and designers from various origins, not only to fight against cultural appropriation and achieve inclusivity, but also because these bridges will serve as a platform for tomorrow's creative force.